Monday, 27 February 2012

Sad it's all over

After months of planning, organising, preparation, emailing, and worrying, the night of Mr Sparkle's Dark Un finally arrived. A fell race, at night, in winter - what could possibly go wrong? As it turned out - not a lot! My romantic idea of setting the race off with a fire cracker had to be abandoned when 3 attempts failed to light it, other than that everything just seemed to fall into place.
Call me a sentimental old sod but there was a lot of love floating about that night. I had put a lot into the event, drawing on things I'd learned from other fell races, mountain bike races and singlespeed events, and I like to think that people picked up on that vibe. I was aiming for 'endearingly shonky' rather than 'seriously racey'. Fun more than competition.
Sixty runners charged off into the darkness of Roddlesworth Woods taking with them a weight off my shoulders. Although quite a few runners had recce'd the route very few knew what they would be encountering! I had put something on twitter about the race being one where you could experience woodland, moorland and Jungle. I suspect this caused a bit of confusion until the Drum 'n Bass disco on the top of the moor was reached! Not your usual fell race fare...
Almost before I was ready word came through that the first runner was on his way. We got the fire lit and then it was action stations. Mark Russell of Salford Harriers came through to take the win in 34:55, which is bloody quick for daylight let alone darkness. Other runners were soon approaching. Lights bobbling about in the darkness as they flew down the rocky track to the line.
I made sure to shake hands and thank every runner for taking part. Although sweat soaked and mud spattered they all seemed to have a big grin on their faces when they could get their breath back. In they came - from Blackburn, Burden, Dashers, Rossendale. More and more arrived home, buzzing. As I got their reaction to the course and the whole experience I must confess that I was buzzing too. Relief, excitement and pride all combined in a huge emotional cocktail inside me. Finally they were all back safe and well, the spirit of the race perhaps personified by the last 2 runners coming in together laughing.
Everyone mucked in to get the finish line stuff cleared away and then we made our way back to the packed pub. Alison, the Landlady and one of her staff were battling their way through the crush with plates of chip butties. Ale was drunk and numbers were crunched until I could lead everyone outside to do the presentation in the beer garden. The winners were Mark Russell and Sarah Sherratt who were presented with the Star shaped trophies. As well as the usual age group prizes I gave ones for last place, best reaction to the disco and best marshal as voted for by the runners. You could have hardly called it a professional proceedings but everyone seemed to enjoy the light heartedness of it all and forgive my cock ups.
Then it was back to the pub for the social. I got social as a newt and had a great night, yapping away to people. I'm not good with receiving praise but I think it's fair to say that the race was a success and I got many positive comments.
I have a whole host of 'thank you's' and 'without whom's' and I really mean every last one of 'em. Deep breath...
The people who encouraged me to go ahead with the daft idea in the first place - Paul Livsey, Jonathan Stubbs and Joanne Nelson, all the fantastic marshalls, timekeepers and finish line 'staff', Mark and Alison from the Royal who kindly donated the bottles of wine for age group prizes, gave us the chip butties at a great price and ensured that I had a thick head on saturday morning, Sweatshop Chorley for the £5 vouchers and race numbers,FDS and RPL for their sponsorship donations, Kath GP for her assistance,Hopey from Lostock who did some serious prize blagging, George Thompson who couldn't be there but still donated a prize, Linda Clarkson who bought a load of sweets to give out at the presentation, Dave Moir who knew he couldn't be there but insisted on putting a fiver in as he would have liked to have done it, Spud for loan of the megaphone, Dave the Builder Billington for use of the lights, David Barnes for use of the flashing skip lights, Bolton Mountain Rescue for attending in numbers and providing me with a lovely sense of security if owt had gone wrong, SportSunday for sending a 'tog,'Wheezing Donkey' for turning up and just mucking in, Jane Woodburn from Skelmersdale Boundary Harriers for turning up and offering advice and assistance at start and finish, the people from various clubs who helped promote the race to their club members, Jason Terrahawk Miles for the red and white tape, Richpips for getting a posse to come all the way up from Derbyshire, Cath, Will, Emma and Hannah for their various roles, people who had to pull out and insisted on putting the money in anyway. There are probably more- if I've missed you then apologies.
Suffice it to say that I will do my level best to put the race on again next year and if it's only half as good as the first one it will still be bloody great!

Friday, 17 February 2012


About 5 years ago on a winters night, I had just finished reading Richard Askwith's excellent 'Feet in the clouds' for the first time. I was siezed with the desire to get out - there and then, and run on the moors. I grabbed a headtorch, and the dog and I set off. We climbed the road and then turned off at the top of the hill and onto the moorland. Initially I turned my headtorch on, my breath creating clouds of steam in the cool air. I soon realised that due to the almost full moon reflecting off the snow on the ground that the light was unneccessary. Through silent fields we ran, Conn keeping pace with me. Another climb and we finally reached the highest point on the moor. The snow, as I remember it, was still clean and crisp, easy to run on and still unmarked by any tracks. We ran together. It felt almost effortless, the wind behind us. It was a run just for the pure pleasure of running. Conn would get slightly ahead and then he'd suddenly pick up the hint of a smell of something interesting and wheel back to locate it, snuffling into the snow. I felt true joy at this shared magical experience. The moonlight created shadows on the snow, little scuffs of cristals thrown up by our feet as we sped on. I think the memory of that night will stay with me forever. When I think of Conn that's how I remember him - bounding easily along, fur blown back, mouth slightly open as if in a smile. Conn was put down on Thursday. Run free boy. You were loved.